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Imagine driving down a residential street and seeing dark gray smoke billowing out of a house’s roof. Multiple sirens can be heard in the distance, and this is enough to know that firetrucks are racing to the scene. When they arrive, brave men and women, all suited up in firefighting gear, will jump from the truck, each tasked with a specific job to fight the blaze.

Firefighters enter burning homes and buildings, first to search for victims and get them to safety. They also locate the source of the fire so they can control and ultimately extinguish it. Firefighting is a dangerous and demanding occupation, but these tasks are only part of what the job entails.

Firefighters are often the first to arrive in emergency situations other than structure fires, each with their own hazards. Vehicle crashes, for example, can bring the dangers of potential fires, ruptured fuel tanks or the presence of hazardous materials. Victims trapped inside a vehicle may need the help of the extrication equipment that firefighters often carry.

When someone calls 911 for a medical condition such as chest pain, firefighters will often arrive first and begin triaging the victim’s condition. They use the skills learned in emergency medical training to provide first aid and appropriate medical treatment at the scene. Paramedics may arrive next to transport the victim to a medical facility in an ambulance.

Rescue operations will often involve firefighters as well. They might be called to the scene of a vehicle submerged in water, or called to free passengers from stuck elevators. Firefighters will use their training in rescue procedures to search and rescue victims, getting them to safety. They are also trained as first responders to a hazardous material spill or incident. Once a hazmat incident is confirmed, firefighters will notify the proper authority and then begin evacuation efforts in the area, if appropriate.

When not on an active call, firefighters still have work to do. Fire service personnel actively engage in educating others on fire safety, whether it’s in a school setting or a community event. At the fire station, firefighters perform administrative work documenting call reports. They also clean the station, fire engines and maintain all the equipment routinely. With the physical demands of a firefighter’s job, fitness training and drills are also part of their regular routine.

It’s no small task to put on heavy gear and race to a fire scene that everyone else is fleeing, but this is far from the only tasks firefighters face. Their jobs involve many other responsibilities that require specific knowledge and skilled training. Communities depend on firefighters to rescue victims, put out fires, educate about fire safety and save lives. Every day, firefighters step up to meet these challenges.

To learn more about the different regular tasks involved in the firefighter occupation, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.